The Women Review

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Having graciously surrendered her husband Stephen to shopgirl Crystal Allen, Park Avenue mother Mary Haines refuses to accept their marriage and sets out to expose her rival's affair with the singing cowboy who was once married to her friend, Countess DeLave.


Still feeling piqued at having been fired off Gone With The Wind, George Cukor took on this adaptation of Clare Boothe's stinging stage play to restore his reputation as Hollywood's finest director of actresses. Lording it over a cast of 135 women - only two of whom, Marjorie Main and Phyllis Povah, were reprising their Broadway roles - he succeeded in coaxing one of the best ensemble displays since his own Dinner At Eight in 1933.

   Having come through his own crisis of confidence, Cukor agreed to help Joan Crawford lobby for the role of Crystal, as she had recognised that her days as MGM's No.1 glamour star were dwindling and that she needed to extend her range. But, having browbeaten Louis B. Mayer and producer Hunt Stromberg into accepting his choice, Cukor then had to back down from casting Ilka Chase as the gossiping Sylvia Fowler and agree to the insertion of the Technicolor fashion parade, which he considered an embarrassment .

   However, there were plenty more battles ahead. Crawford and Norma Shearer (who sought to sustain her status at the studio by playing on the fact that she was *wünderkind *Irving G. Thalberg's widow) bickered over billing and then refused to exchance a civil word for the remainder of the production, with Shearer having to plead with Cukor to prevent Crawford from knitting noisily as she delivered feed lines off camera. However, Rosalind Russell, who had landed the role of Sylvia, proved to be just as obstreperous and cried off sick until her co-star credit was confirmed.

      But, once his cast had ceased cat-fighting (an apt description, since each character was associated with a symbolic animal), Cukor was able to persuade them to deliver performances that belied the two-dimensionality of Boothe's characterisation - which had scarcely been improved upon by screenwriter Jane Murfin, despite the fact she had been scripting woman's pictures since the silent era. However, Anita Loos managed to inject some bitchy grit into the proceedings after she was called in, ironically, to tone things down after complaints about the unlady-like language from the Breen Office.

An early, classic manifestation of the chick flick if ever we saw one, it achieves everything it sets out to.